Go back ten or even just five years and there was a thriving re-issue industry in the UK and further afield, companies like Blood And Fire, Soul Jazz, Heartbeat, Motion and Jamaican Gold were all busy releasing collections of vintage Jamaican music with what would now seem ridicoulous regularity. The undisputed leaders of the pack in terms of back catalogue and quantity of releases was a revitalised Trojan operating under the Sanctuary umberella. They issued literally dozens of compilations of vintage Jamaican music a year and whilst quality control was hit and miss at times with so much coming out they couldn’t fail to release some real gems.
Since those “golden days” things have gone quiet, other than Pressure Sounds and some action from VP there have been very few labels issuing quality reggae reissues on CD. Step forward Trojan now owned by the mega corp Universal; since the take over they’ve been very quiet but now it looks like things may be about to change. Out now are four budget compilations that whilst flawed give alot more that their fiver price tag suggests they might:
- The Heavy Monster Sound: The Story Of Trojan Records
On paper this looks the weakest of the bunch featuring as it does one whole CD of the kind of tune that anyone with a passing interest in late 60’s/early 70’s reggae will have on a dozen compilations already; Return Of Django, Double Barrel, that kind of thing. Of course there are plenty of people who won’t have heard these tunes before and as there aren’t a hundred CD’s containing them currently available it’s reasonable enough that Trojan would decide to push this stuff.
But CD 2 is where the real action is, compiler Laurence Cane-Honeysett has done a great job in unearthing a selection of quality tracks that even if you own many of them on the B sides of long forgotten 7″ you won’t fail to enjoy them when presented in this format. Pick of the bunch is Let Them Talk by Ranny Williams and George Regent which is a prime slice of 1969 reggae. The inclusion of an early dancehall tune in the shape of Ranking Trevor’s Mr Reagan… kind of jars with the overall theme but it’s a perfectly OK tune, sadly the previously unreleased All The King’s Horses by The Marvels is only noteable for it’s mediocrity.
Ranny Williams & George Regent – Let Them Talk
- Ska-ing West
Given that every single play on words to do with ska has been done to death over the past 40 odd years it seems almost impossible that there has never been a compilation named after this Lord Comic classic before but I can’t think of one at the moment so maybe I’m mistaken.
Two CD’s worth of ska is usually far too much like hard work for me so I was pleasantly surprised that there are more than a couple of absolute stormers on here plus plenty of decent tunes to fill the gaps, a few too many average vocals for sure but not enough to spoil the mood. The second CD in particular is consistently strong.
Blues Busters – Behold!
- Sounds & Pressure: Mod Reggae
Having no real clue what Mod Reggae is I’d hoped this CD would tell me. The first lesson learnt was that Mods are a bit confused about what reggae is as there is plenty of ska, rocksteady and assorted R&B and soul stuff here but no reggae. Secondly mods have strange tastes and tend to like uptown ska from the likes of the Granville Williams Orchestra and the UK recorded variety, some of these tunes are great but others are definitely not.
There are a few too many different styles and too many also ran tracks for this compilation to hang together particularly well but there are still a significant number of killer tracks and you probably need to buy this anyway.
Roy Panton – Endless Memory
- Foundation Dub
Bringing together a mix of producers and disparate styles spanning the mid seventies to the early 80’s is not something you’d expect to work particularly well but this flows very nicely as a compilation. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of many of the rhythms and the great voices of the likes of Dennis Brown and Johnny Clarke flowing in and out of the mixes but it’s hard not to like this.
Classy Dub (Gregory Isaacs – Extra Classic)